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Is Race a Cognitive Bias?

One of the most powerful ways to understand cognitive biases – the way your brain takes shortcuts – is to look at the concept of race and skin colour.

Now if you look at me, just ask yourself: What what colour am I? What race am I?

You’d be forgiven for saying I’m “white”.

But if you actually zoom in and look at my skin, you’ll see it’s not the colour white to begin with. There’s lots of freckles and weird pink spots – I’ve had a lot of sunburn in my life – there’s all kinds of shit going on.

None of it is actually White.

I’m a pixelated variation of colours and, like fingerprints, I don’t exactly match the skin tone of any other person on the planet. There’s no evidence that I actually belong to a homogeneous skin colour group.

I’ve never seen a person who’s actually “black” either. I’ve seen various grades of brown, yet even within their own individual bodies they vary in different colours.

I’ve even seen a biology study that shows that as a “white” person I’m more likely to share a higher DNA match with a random “black” guy than another “black” person would with that same guy.

So what do we mean when we say “race”? What exactly is skin colour?

It’s a shortcut.

It’s a broad, oversimplified, meaningless, and frankly quite dishonest grouping of people that makes no biological sense, has no supporting evidence, and only demonstrates our limited ability to handle nuance in our mental narratives.

Are all “women” the same, without variation? Are all “Canadians” the same? Are all “dogs” the same?

How are we to trust minds that would oversimplify things to such an inaccurate degree?

2 Responses

  1. There’s also the case of mitochondrial DNA, which basically shows we’re all cousins who originated from central Africa

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